Peter Welker is in a very good mood.
“I’m prouder of the work I’m doing today than just about anything I’ve ever done in my life,” says the acclaimed horn player and composer. Having taken up the trumpet at age 9, Welker has been a working musician his whole life. He started composing in his teens, has played with numerous bands over the decades, switched to the flugelhorn a few years ago — “At my age, it’s a little more forgiving than the trumpet,” he laughs — and has steadily built relationships with some of the best-known musicians in the business. Asked how many ensembles he’s been a part of since starting to play, he lets out another laugh, every bit as rich and melodious as a tune on a horn.
“Oh man, I’ve played with hundreds of bands over the years,” he says, quickly adding, with a huge smile, “I’ve never actually tried to sit down and count how many. Dozens of bands. And hundreds of players. I’ve played with a lot of great people. But I’ve honestly never been as excited to play with a group of folks as I am about the guys in my current band, The Sidemen. It’s the best band I’ve ever put together.”
The Sidemen are drummer Todd Tribble, bassist Cliff Hugo, saxophonist Steve Steinberg, keyboardist Ruben Valtierra and guitarist Morris Acevedo. Every one is a hardworking session player, having performed with scores of major names over the years.
It just made sense to call us The Sidemen, since that’s what we’ve all done, playing for just about everybody,” Welker says. “And when we perform live, together, it’s pretty awesome. This is a killer band, man.”
Over the last year, the Sidemen have quickly built a strong reputation as the kind of band to whom other musicians are particularly drawn.
“We have fans who come because they like to dance, and fans who come because they like to listen,” says Welker. “And then we have fans who are musicians, who like to come and sit and say, ‘Wow! I think you guys may be the best band in Sonoma County!’ I’m too humble to say something like that myself, but I’m not too humble to say that someone else said it. Anyway, we are definitely building up a big base of fans in the area. One writer called us a cross between The Crusaders, the Yellow Jackets and the L.A. Express. Which is cool because those are all my favorite bands.”
The Sidemen will be performing on Friday, Jan. 18, at Petaluma’s Red Brick, where the group has appeared a number of times since originally forming 12 months ago.
“We usually pack the place, because the word is out,” says Welker. “Do I sound excited? Well, I am excited! I’ve been doing this a long time, and it’s just so cool to be my age, I’m 74, and still be able to feel like there are really big opportunities ahead.”
In between performances, The Sidemen have been recording their first CD, with 11 tunes already completed, including one featuring original lyrics and vocals by Grammy-winner Bill Champlin, of Sons of Champlin and Chicago. Also on the album are Tony Levin, bass player with King Crimson and Peter Gabriel, and his brother Pete Levin, keyboardist for David Sanborn, Bob Dylan and others. Grammy-winning saxophonist Tom Scott appears on four songs. But it’s Chmplin’s appearance that Welker believes could open doors for the recording, which he hopes to have completed and ready to shop around by this summer.
PLANNING TO GO?
What: The Sidemen
When: Friday, Jan. 18, 7 p.m.
Where: Red Brick, 101 Second St.